Fiberoptics Industry Report

Avanex buys Corning, Alcatel components businesses; More optical-switch firms close their doors; Ciena wins patent verdict in Corvis lawsuit; MORE...

Avanex buys Corning, Alcatel components businesses

Taking advantage of the "fire sale" mindset of many optical-components companies, Avanex (Fremont, CA) has scored two key acquisitions that will turn the firm into a major player in the optical-networking industry. Avanex is buying the optical components business of Alcatel (Paris, France) and Corning (Corning, NY) in transactions that combined total more than $63 million. Avanex estimates that it will have more than $250 million in cash and 1600 employees when the acquisitions close in September. The company will also pick up more than 1400 patents from Corning and Alcatel in the process.

Corning said that Avanex would acquire assets relating to its optical amplifier facility in Erwin, NY, and its optical components plant in Milan, Italy. Corning also plans to close its Lasertron facility in Bedford, MA, by the end of this year and reportedly is considering selling off or closing down its remaining photonics businesses, which include Corning Intellisense, a MEMS developer in Wilmington, MA, and the NetOptix diamond turning facility in Keene, NH.

More optical-switch firms close their doors

Following in the footsteps of companies such as Nortel, Lucent, Corning, and Alcatel, which have fled the optical-switching market, and OMM, which went under earlier this year, Network Photonics (Boulder, CO) and Transparent Photonics (Milpitas, CA) have gone out of business.

Network Photonics, which raised more than $106 million in its second round of funding in 2000 in support of its MEMS-based DWDM switches, has shut down and is giving $30 million in cash back to investors. In a note sent out to analysts in April, CEO Steve Georgis said, "It has become obvious that the market for photonic switching and reconfigurable optical networks is not going to emerge in any big way soon. When it does emerge, we estimate that the size of the addressable market will be small. Rather than continue to burn the $30 million in cash we have remaining, we have decided that the best outcome for our investors is to return the cash to them. We have considerable intellectual property and hard assets that we will now begin the process of liquidating."

Transparent Networks, an optical MEMS startup that attracted some $30 million in its three-year existence, had developed the LambdaMirror, a 1200-mirror array photonic-switching system, with high-density electronics on a single chip. The company is now looking to sell off its technology portfolio, which includes a large-scale photonic-crossconnect functional prototype, a wavelength-selective switch and light-path exchange with integrated DWDM designs, an HDTV display mirror, MOEMS design and validation tools, and more than 20 patents and patents pending.

Ciena wins patent verdict in Corvis lawsuit

A jury for U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware issued a verdict in favor of Ciena (Linthicum, MD) in its litigation against Corvis for patent infringement. The jury found that Corvis' CorWave system infringes Ciena's US Patent 5,504,609, "WDM Optical Communication System With Remodulators," which covers optical-communication technology pioneered by Ciena. Ciena's suit alleged Corvis' infringement of four Ciena patents for optical-transport technology. In a February 2003 trial, a jury found that one of these patents was infringed and that two were not infringed, but the jury was deadlocked on the fourth patent. Ciena plans to move for an injunction prohibiting sales of infringing products.

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Also in the news . . .

Tellabs (Naperville, IL) plans to acquire privately held Vivace Networks (San Jose, CA), a four-year-old developer of multiservice IP edge switches, for $135 million in cash and employee stock options. . . . Avalon Photonics (Zurich, Switzerland) raised ¤4.78 million ($5.5 million) in venture funding in its second round of financing. The company, which was spun out from the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microelectronics, in 2000, added two new investors: Venture Incubator from Switzerland and innotech from Germany. . . . JDS Uniphase (Ottawa, Ontario and San Jose, CA) has selected the LabVIEW graphical development software package from National Instruments (Austin, TX) for its MAP fiberoptic instrumentation platform. According to the companies, MAP and LabVIEW easily integrate to provide a broad set of test and measurement capabilities for fiberoptic component manufacturers, reducing development time and increase system performance.

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